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New Indiana law prompts school transfer policy change

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Wednesday, July 24, 2013 - 8:15 am

MUNSTER — A northwestern Indiana school corporation no longer will accept transfer students who remain residents of other districts because a new Indiana law takes away local control of transfer guidelines, its superintendent said Tuesday.

The Munster schools in Lake County adopted the policy because a law that took effect July 1 prevents school corporations from denying most transfers for reasons other than enrollment capacity, Superintendent Richard Sopko said.

The law does not apply to school corporations that do not accept transfer students residing outside its district boundaries.

"We don't want to just let anyone in. We want to maintain our standards. We don't want any major discipline problems. We believe the law removes local control, and we're in favor of local control," Sopko told The Times.

The Munster schools didn't consider any transfer requests for the upcoming school year submitted after June 15. Students admitted by that date or who attended Munster schools already can remain through graduation.

Sopko said the issue of transfer students came up during a recent referendum campaign. Munster voters passed a tax increase in May allowing the school system to raise taxes 19.9 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to generate $3 million in additional annual revenue for seven years. The money will go into the school district's general fund to pay for salaries, benefits and utility bills.

The district has lost $2 million in state funding under changes Indiana has made in its distribution formula, Sopko said.

Sopko said the new transfer-student policy will address many of the transfer tuition concerns that residents posed during the referendum campaign.

The Munster schools accepted 42 transfer students last school year, accounting for nearly half of their enrollment growth. They had 174 transfer students paying tuition last fall and might accept six more for the new school year, bringing the new total to 180, but no other transfers will be accepted after that.

The Munster schools will charge $2,300 for elementary tuition for the upcoming school year, $2,250 for middle school tuition and $2,362 for high school tuition.